Novelist Kent Haruf has died, his editor at Knopf, Gary Fisketjon, confirmed Sunday evening.
Fisketjon said that Haruf’s last novel, “Our Souls at Night,” will be published next year. “Kent had finished all his revisions and even gone through the copy editing,” Fisketjon said. “We had it scheduled for May, though I haven’t yet processed how this tragic news might alter those plans.”
Haruf, 71, was the author of several quiet, moving novels that take place in the fictional town of Holt, Colo. His 1999 novel “Plainsong” was a finalist for the National Book Award. His most recent novel, “Benediction” (2013), was on the short list for this year’s Folio Prize.
Haruf spent 30 years teaching English and writing. He is survived by his wife, Cathy, and three daughters.
My colleague Mike Rosenwald knew Haruf as a teacher at Southern Illinois University in the 1990s and thereafter as his friend. On Sunday evening, he posted a number of lovely observations and memories about him on Twitter, @mikerosenwald.
The new issue of Granta (No. 129) concludes with an autobiographical essay by Haruf. It begins in 1943 with his birth with a cleft lip, which was only partly corrected by surgery: “The surgeon was supposed to do more work on my lip and nose, but he died in a plane crash and my parents took that as a sign of God’s will, and so nothing more was done.”
That matter-of-fact tone, tinged with tragedy and intimations of faith, is typical of Haruf’s work. He wrote that even many decades later, he could still recall the embarrassment that lip caused him. “But, the truth is, I have come to think . . . that perhaps those years of unhappiness and isolation and living inwardly to myself have helped me to be more aware of others and to pay closer attention to what others around me are feeling.”